Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One reads like a geeky ode of a fanfiction, crossing over several properties into his dream of a limitless cyber adventure. Steven Spielberg is the perfect director to make that dream come true, having enough pull to round up all the toys they love to play with and letting them loose on the big screen. Their combination results in one of the dorkiest fangasms of a movie that visually, narratively, and verbally rattles off pop-culture appreciation like the ultimate machine gun of geek. This aspect may rob the film of being little more than a glorified monument to cool, but as someone who gets a kick out of Gundam, Back to the Future, and Buckaroo Banzai all being present in the same film, I couldn’t help but be delighted by such a boundless trip through a nostalgic wonderland.
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As someone who grew up adoring the giant robot anime of Gundam and Robotech, Pacific Rim made my inner geek explode with joy. Uprising continues to ride that high with a similar story and familiar formula for the first-time director Steven S. DeKnight to slide comfortably into the mecha masterpiece Guillermo del Toro started. Yes, this is very much more of the same, but as someone who dug the tongue-in-cheek silliness and robot-fist-in-monster-jaw action of the previous film, I’m all for a second helping.
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A Wrinkle in Time encourages for children to succeed with the same embarrassment of parents getting too into your school sporting event. It is a film where multiple times the preteen girl protagonist must be reminded that she is special and can change the world. How she can do this is never made clear, making the inspiration in the picture about as effective as a “Hang in there” cat poster. Well, if that poster had fantastical worlds and magic.
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There is a lot of pressure in the tsunami of cinematic superheroes to make something that will stand out from the crowd, but Ryan Coogler is more than up to the challenge with Black Panther. He doesn’t merely give the hero first introduced in Captain America: Civil War a standard solo film to showcase his powers, world, and rogues gallery. Coogler loads his picture up with a unique style, purpose, and, yes, even politics, to create one of Marvel Studio’s best films and not just a bridge to Avengers: Infinity War.
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The Shape of Water presents the argument of why director Guillermo del Toro should be directing the new crop of Universal monster movies and why he will never be chosen for such an honor. He should be directing those films because he has a playful and experimental vision in both direction and tone for crafting an unorthodox creature feature. He won’t be selected because his ideas are just too out there if Universal wants their monster properties to nab some of that blockbuster cash. I can’t imagine general summer audiences would dig a film where a woman has sex with an amphibian creature in a romantic manner.
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There’s a promising and foreboding line by Luke Skywalker: “This is not going to go the way you think it will.” Indeed, The Last Jedi aims for the unexpected as the dark and revealing bridge film of this latest trilogy. Questions are answered with shocking revelations, characters must make tough calls in their loyalties, and there’s no guarantee anybody will make it out of this film alive. There’s a lot to take in as writer/director Rian Johnson has filled this movie with so much character, mythos, themes and action that it becomes overwhelming at times. He doesn’t waste our time, but he doesn’t give us much room to breathe in his somberly stirring epic that becomes draining by the time those blue credits roll.
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Thor always felt like a character of untapped potential. He’s a god of thunder that defends his mystical kingdom of Asgard from the other intergalactic forces of the nine realms. So why does everything have to take place on Earth? Finally ditching his female love interest, Thor finds on a new mission where he gets to fight more monsters, meet more odd characters and travel amid the most lavish of locations. It’s more fun to watch his adventures on a junker planet of gladiator combat than stopping yet another doomsday device from blowing up the planet. There are more than enough heroes on the planet for the hammer-wielding god to have a Work-From-Home-Realms week.
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Taki meets a woman at a bar and takes her back to his place. They start having sex and Taki notices something strange going on with the woman’s legs and arms. Her limbs grow longer and pointier as she tries to ensnare Taki into her vagina that has now bore teeth. Luckily for Taki, he’s accustomed to dealing with monsters such as this, grabbing his gun and forcing her out the window. Now in a more spider-like form, she scurries out the window and down the building. Just another dangerous day in Wicked City.
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Michael Bay’s fifth round of relentless robot carnage is as noisy, incoherent and insulting as this franchise ever was. From its very first shot of fireballs hurling over the Paramount Pictures logo to the final speech of Optimus Prime that contradicts any shred of heroism or morality in the rest of the picture, its a consistent mess of terrible filmmaking. Believe me, I didn’t enter this picture with the intention of hating it. To be fair, this picture didn’t offend me as much as the previous Transformers film, Age of Extinction (2014). There’s no older gentlemen lusting after a teenage girl, keeping a laminated copy of Juliet’s Law in his pocket at all times to excuse his actions. There’s much less product placement, reserving the obligatory Budweiser shot for one bottle taken out of a fridge. I can see a little, but not a lot, of the action going on where I just barely have an idea of who is attacking who. The plot doesn’t seem as overly convoluted this time. There’s even a surprising element of female empowerment for young girls, a rarity of any Bay production. These minor improvements, however, do little to improve a movie where there is very little to care about.
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The best and worst thing that can be said of the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy is that it’s more of the same. If you liked the last movie, you’ll be delighted to hear that Vol. 2 is just as abundant with crass, crude, cute and kicking 70s tunes. Not only are these elements present, but they’ve been doubled and smashed into 138 minutes. More subplots, more characters, more music, more slow-motion shots, more end-credit scenes and more than enough starship battles to make Star Wars blush. It’s rather surprising that, for as much fun as this movie transfers over from the previous film, it forgets to add the originality that made it stand out so well against the competition of other superhero movies.
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